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   Lija Flude
   Emily Bamforth
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Dr. Guy Narbonne
Office: Bruce Wing 551
Phone: (613) 533-6168,
Fax (613) 533-6592,

Department of Geological Sciences
    & Geological Engineering,

Miller Hall, Queen's University,
Kingston, Ontario,
K7L 3N6

The Origin and Early Evolution of Animals

Swartpuntia germsi

Image: Swartpuntia germsi, fossil and a reconstruction of the youngest Ediacaran fossils from a recent find in Namibia.

The Ediacara biota (575 - 543 million years old) is a Late Precambrian assemblage of soft-bodied organisms that represent the oldest animals in Earth history. Some species show familar patterns and appear to represent the rootstock from which modern metazoans evolved, others are difficult to classify with any living animal groups and may represent a "failed experiment" in the evolution of life. Ediacaran communities were the first animal ecosystems on Earth, and studies of their interactions with their environment and each other can shed light on the origin of ecosystems. To see images of these fossils these fossils, please visit our on-line exhibits The Mistaken Point assemblage and The Oldest Complex Animals.

Our studies in NW Canada, southern Africa, and Newfoundland over the past two decades resulted in numerous publications and several graduate theses. Recent investigations have increasingly focused on the Mistaken Point biota of eastern Newfoundland (575-560 Ma), which represents the oldest Ediacaran fossils known anywhere, in fact the oldest large and architecturally complex organisms in Earth history. These Ediacaran fossils are preserved on more than 100 large bedding surfaces spanning nearly 4 km of section, each surface littered with tens to thousands of fossil specimens that died in place when they were smothered beneath beds of volcanic ash. This provides a superb natural laboratory for our studies of the affinities, evolution, and ecology of early animals and their ecosystems. Five M.Sc. theses, a Ph.D. thesis, and two post-doctoral fellowships have been completed on the paleobiology and life environments of these critical fossils, and other research projects are available.

related to

image of charnia wardi

Charnia wardi is the oldest complex animal fossil yet discovered. See the paper "Life after Snowball: The oldest complex Ediacaran fossils" in the reference list below.

Graduate Theses and Post-doctoral Fellowships:
Lija Flude, M.Sc. thesis in progress, Ediacaran rangeomorphs in the Mistaken Point biota, Newfoundland.

Emily Bamforth, 2007, M.Sc. Ediacaran multibranched rangeomorphs in the Mistaken Point biota, Newfoundland. Currently in the Ph.D. program in evolutionary biology at McGill University.

Marc Laflamme, 2006, Ph.D. Paleobiology of Ediacaran fronds at Mistaken Point, Newfoundland. Currently NSERC Postdoctoral Fellow at Virginia Polytechnical Institute/Yale University

Aitor Ichado, 2005, M.Sc. Neoproterozoic sedimentology and basin analysis of Conception Bay North, Newfoundland (co-supervised by R.W. Dalrymple). Currently in the Ph.D. program in sedimentology at Queen's University.

Dr. Leanne Pyle, 2002-2004, Postdoctoral Fellow, Ediacaran facies and fossils, Wernecke Mountains, Yukon Territory. (co-supervised by N.P. James). Currently a project geologist with the Geological Survey of Canada in Vancouver, B.C.

Matthew Clapham, 2002, M.Sc., Community ecology of the Ediacaran biota at Mistaken Point, Newfoundland. Currently Assistant Professor at University of California, Santa Cruz.
Donald Wood, 2002, M.Sc., Neoproterozoic sedimentology and paleontology, eastern Newfoundland (co-supervised by R.W. Dalrymple). Currently a geologist at Acclaim Energy Trust, Calgary.

Robert MacNaughton, 1997, Ph.D., Sedimentology and trace fossils across the Precambrian- Cambrian boundary, NW Canada (co-supervised by R.W. Dalrymple). Currently Research Scientist at the Geological Survey of Canada, Calgary.

Dr. Jim Gehling, 1998-2000, William E. White Visiting Fellow. Paleobiology of the Mistaken Point assemblage. Currently Research Scientist at the South Australia Museum, Adelaide and Adjunct Professor at Queen's University, Kingston.

Recent Publications:

Refereed Books:

Fedonkin, M.A., Gehling, J.G., Grey, K., Narbonne, G.M., and Vickers-Rich, P., 2007, The Rise of Animals: Evolution and Diversification of Kingdom Animalia. John Hopkins Press, 344 p. [Shortlisted for the Premier’s Literary Award in Science Writing.]

Refereed Journal Publications:

Flude, L.I. and Narbonne, G.M. Taphonomy and ontogeny of a multibranched Ediacaran fossil: Bradgatia from the Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 45 (10), in press.

Laflamme, M. and Narbonne, G.M., 2008, Competition in a Precambrian world: Palaeoecology and functional biology of Ediacaran fronds. Geology Today, 24 (5): 182-187.

Canfield, D.E., Poulton, S.W., Knoll, A.H., Narbonne, G.M., Ross, G.M., Goldberg, T., and Strauss, H., 2008. Ferruginous conditions dominated later Neoproterozoic deep-water chemistry. Science 321: 949-952 (also published online 07 July 2008 [DOI: 10.1126/science.1154499] in Science Express Reports). [Selected for a “Perspective” in Science]

Bamforth, E.L., Narbonne, G.M. and Anderson, M.M. 2008, Growth and ecology of a multi-branched Ediacaran rangeomorph from the Mistaken Point assemblage, Newfoundland. Journal of Paleontology 82: 763–777.

Laflamme, M., and Narbonne, G.M., 2008, Ediacaran fronds. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 258 (3): 162-179. [Featured in Geology Today]

Gehling, J.G. and Narbonne, G.M. 2007, Spindle-shaped Ediacara fossils from the Mistaken Point assemblage, Avalon Zone, Newfoundland. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 44: 367-387.

SEQ CHAPTER \h \r 1Ichaso, A., Dalrymple, R.W., and Narbonne, G.M., 2007, Paleoenvironmental and basin analysis of the late Neoproterozoic (Ediacaran) upper Conception and St. John’s Groups, west Conception Bay, Newfoundland, Canada, Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 44: 25-41.

Canfield, D.E., Poulton, S.W., and Narbonne, G.M., 2007, Late Neoproterozoic deep ocean oxygenation and the rise of animal life. Science 315: 92-95 (also published online 07 December 2006 [DOI: 10.1126/science.1135013] in Science Express Reports). [Featured in the “News of the Week” by Science, Nature, and New Scientist]

Pyle, L.J., Narbonne, G.M., Nowlan, G.S., Xiao, S, and James, N.P., 2006, Early Cambrian metazoan eggs, embryos, and phosphatic microfossils from northwestern Canada. Journal of Paleontology 80: 811-825.

Knoll, A.H., Walter, M.R., Narbonne, G.M., and Christie-Blick, N., 2006, The Ediacaran Period: A new addition to the geologic time scale. Lethaia 39:13-30. (PDF)

Narbonne, G.M. 2005, The Ediacara biota: Neoproterozoic origin of animals and their ecosystems. Annual Reviews of Earth and Planetary Sciences 33: 13.1-13.22. (PDF)

Narbonne, G.M. 2004, Modular construction of complex early Ediacaran life forms. Science 305: 1141-1144. (PDF)
Selected as Cover photograph: --CLICK HERE--
Selected as one of the top 100 science
discoveries (#46) for 2004 by Discover Magazine.

Knoll, A.H., Walter, M.R., Narbonne, G.M., and Christie-Blick, N. 2004, A new period for the geologic time scale. Science 305: 621-622. (PDF)
Selected as one of the top 100 science
discoveries (#42) for 2004 by Discover Magazine.

Laflamme, M., Narbonne, G.M. and Anderson, M.M., 2004, Morphometrics of the Ediacaran frond Charniodiscus from the Mistaken Point Formation, Newfoundland. Journal of Paleontology 78: 827-837. (PDF)

Clapham, M.E., Narbonne,G.M., Gehling, J.G., Greentree, C, and Anderson, M.M. 2004, Thectardis avalonensis: A new Ediacaran fossil from Mistaken Point, Newfoundland. Journal of Paleontology, 78: 1031-1036. (PDF)

Pyle, L.J., Narbonne, G.M., James, N.P., Dalrymple, R.W., and Kaufman, A.J., 2004, Integrated Ediacaran chronostratigraphy, Wernecke Mountains, northwestern Canada. Precambrian Research 132: 1-27. (PDF)

Narbonne, G.M. and Gehling, J.G., 2003, Life after Snowball: the oldest complex Ediacaran fossils. Geology 31: 27-30. (PDF)
For images of these fossils --CLICK HERE--

Clapham, M.E., Narbonne,G.M., and Gehling, J.G., 2003, Paleoecology of the oldest- known animal communities: Ediacaran assemblages at Mistaken Point, Newfoundland. Paleobiology 29: 527-544. (PDF)

Wood, D. A., Dalrymple, R.W., Narbonne, G.M., Gehling, J.G., and Clapham. M.E., 2003, Environmental analysis of the late Neoproterozoic Mistaken Point and Trepassey Formations, southeastern Newfoundland: paleobiological and tectonic implication. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 40: 1375-1391. (PDF)

Clapham, M.E. and Narbonne, G.M., 2002, Ediacaran epifaunal tiering, Geology 30: 527-544. (PDF)

MacNaughton, R.B., Narbonne, G.M., and Dalrymple, R.W., 2000, Neoproterozoic slope deposits, Mackenzie Mountains, NW Canada: Implications for passive-margin development and Ediacaran faunal ecology. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, 37: 997-1020.

Gehling, J.G., Narbonne, G.M. and Anderson, M.A., 2000, The first named Ediacaran body fossil, Aspidella terranovica,. Palaeontology , 43: 427-456.

Please contact me at to discuss potential thesis topics.

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